Tea Party

Radical Opening for Convention

Its credibility already thrown into question by rival activists, the Tea Party Convention in Nashville did little to quiet critics who say the grass-roots movement often flirts with extremism. Former Representative Tom Tancredo, famous for his anti-immigration politics, offered a racially incendiary opening day speech on Thursday in which he denounced "the cult of multiculturalism" and said President Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country." The line about tests carried an explosive edge beyond its schoolyard taunting: literacy and civics voting tests were notoriously used to prevent blacks from voting during segregation and were banned by the Voting Rights Act in 1964. A number of speakers and sponsors have pulled out of the convention over claims that its organizers are exploiting the movement for money (tickets are $549), but Sarah Palin, whose speaking fee for the event is reportedly $100,000, has pledged to see it through.